How Wealthy Are You?

Recently a tweet from entrepreneur Sahil Bloom caught my attention. He examines overall wealth and explains how the sole pursuit of financial wealth can rob you of the others. I agree with him and have been living my life in a way that emphasizes non-financial wealth. If you really knew me, you would know I have not received a W-2 or 1099 since 2009 and have supported myself by teaching yoga, facilitating workshops, managing investments, and living humbly.

Financial wealth is an alluring benchmark for success. Net Worth = Assets – Liabilities and offers a simple scoreboard for success. People assume financial wealth creates happiness – but a critical point known for decades is that while net worth and income are scientifically correlated with happiness—it is only up to a baseline level that’s most likely lower than you think. In the US, that number is approximately $75,000 per year, with many variables based on geography and other factors. Read more about the famous 2010 Princeton Study here. Once you are above this baseline, you get no more incremental happiness. Sahil posits:  If your goal is happiness or a good life:

(1) Focus on getting above this baseline

(2) Focus on other drivers of happiness

To summarize, there are five types of wealth:

• Financial (money)

• Social (relationships)

• Physical (health)

• Mental (health, spirituality)

• Time (freedom)

Social Wealth consists of meaningful relationships. Sahil’s advice, which I like, is to build a T-shaped web of connectivity, which is both broad and deep. This means cultivating deep relationships but also embracing weaker and more broad ties. This has been my primary focus over the past few years – and I feel incredibly wealthy. I’ve tied this wealth to my career passions (facilitating groups), so it is constantly growing.

Physical Wealth is possibly the most critical but under-appreciated type of wealth as it’s essential to enjoy the other forms of wealth fully. Exercise, sleep, and nutrition are key. I feel this is an area I neglected the past couple of years since my cancer diagnosis. This month I signed up for Orangetheory Fitness, which offers one-hour high-intensity training classes, and it feels delicious to feel strong and fit again. When asked what my fitness goal was, I said, To feel and look good naked, a line borrowed from the classic movie American Beauty.

Mental Wealth includes mental health, wisdom, mindfulness, spirituality, and faith. This is a vast category, one I may have personally separated mental and spiritual into separate wealth categories, but let’s roll with it. Mental fitness is treating your brain like a muscle, flexing it through learning, reading, writing, conversing, etc. Best to do this daily! And the spiritual component can be met in several ways – through the formal or informal practice of deepening one’s relationship to ones one spirit and the world that lies beyond the physical. This, for me, was my primary pursuit for much of the past decade, and its pursuit and accumulation of wealth is one of the main reasons I was able to get through my cancer diagnosis so quickly and psychologically unscathed.

Time Wealth is interesting – when you’re young, you’re a time billionaire, and many of us forget to realize this precious asset until it’s too late. Sahil says to Treat time as your ultimate currency—it’s all you have, and you can never get it back. So NEVER let the pursuit of financial wealth rob you of your time wealth.

I’m curious what you, dear reader, make of these distinctions. I notice Sahil does not discuss sexuality, as is the usual mainstream trend. I’ve been pondering if I would make a separate category or acknowledge it as part of mental, physical, and social wealth. Thanks for reading!

Incubating and Creating

** Overdue update! In late April, I left Mazunte, Mexico, and spent a beautiful month in Portugal visiting a lover in Lisbon and exploring the country’s northern half on a solo backpack. While there is a lot to say about my time in Portugal, what is most alive is what is happening now in Boulder. In early June, I returned to the US and rented a room in a beautiful home with a close friend, my first permanent-ish home since spending the last two years at my Zen Monastery and then abroad.

I have been thrust back into community and activity in a way that has validated my decision to relocate and live here again, a place I have not entirely resided in since 2009 when I packed up after 8-years of corporate ‘do as you are supposed to do life,’ sold all of my possessions and traveled to Asia.

Last week, I co-led two workshops called | OPEN | – Authentic Relating Meets Sexuality that were so popular that we will offer a third one next Saturday that is also nearly sold out two days after announcing it. This is the fruit of a long-developing bond with the incredible human, Michaela Smail.

THIS beautiful, fierce, devotional, and focused woman has evoked a creative spark in me as I have never experienced before! I feel confident to explore, offer and create in the rich, edgy, controversial space my life has followed:  intimacy, sexuality, consciousness, and communication. Our recent collaboration convinced me that my path is collaborative, and planning a company, a movement, or a dynasty together is so enlivening! She inspires me personally and professionally to realize and actualize creating and birthing something in the world: a task that I have been hiding from and fearful of until now, preferring to play it safe and avoid potential humiliation or failure. It’s been an honor and privilege to facilitate and create alongside this legendary human.

This is just the beginning. I hope to see you at the next one! Are you in? It’s time to | OPEN |

An Unremarkable Scrotum

Two weeks ago, I had a routine CT Scan (X-Ray) as part of a scheduled series of tests after my cancer treatment in 2020. Marking two years since diagnosis, the scan and all my blood work indicated continued remission of any disease and is an encouraging sign that I have moved beyond a significant window of risk for recurrence. I will likely do one more exam in six months or a year and then say goodbye to the treatment center for good.

As I walked out of the cancer center and towards my car in the brisk winter air, my celebrations were cut short: I glanced at the printed copy of the scan results, and my eyes jumped straight to the last line:  “The scrotum is unremarkable.” Not to take anything away from the more relevant statement earlier in the report: “There is no evidence of pathology, no evidence of disease,” but my scrotum (and my prostate and seminal vesicles too) labeled as unremarkable – was very upsetting to me and I found myself quickly deflated! I personally always assumed my scrotum was, in fact, quite remarkable. More on this later. First, an update:

I’ve shifted locations from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, to Mazunte, Mexico. Mazunte is a small (but currently very crowded) pacific coast village that I first visited in 2011. It is one of the most naturally beautiful places I’ve ever been, with endless beaches, rocky cliffs, and wild nature everywhere. One of my meditation teachers is here, Sahajananda, the founder of Hridaya Yoga, and a few friends who are here for various reasons. Unfortunately, I arrived a bit later than expected – I missed my flight (for no one’s fault but my own) for the first time in a long time. Clueless that the plane had already boarded, I was hanging out at the gate drinking water, eating a snack, and even taking a selfie (which I’m far too embarrassed to post) with the open gate and agent behind me. In the end, I had to fork out $250 for a new last-minute ticket and spend a sleepless night in the Mexico City airport, all the while going through a wild shame spiral for being so careless and unaware. I notice I am very hard on myself when careless actions cause me a significant financial loss. This feeling is related very much to my relationship to control and a masculine-oriented view of life. I used to think and say, ‘how can anyone miss a flight,’ sitting in a café or whatever. Now I understand – and a story I have been unfolding for myself that I referred to in my last post is shifting from a masculine-oriented worldview to incorporating more aspects of the feminine worldview. A friend even reflected that I feel more like I’m allowing myself to be penetrated (feminine-oriented) by the world, which is new territory. I’m not saying that missing a flight is feminine, rather that there are more non-linear aspects of life that take on more aliveness and make things like time and money less interesting.

And this brings me back to a conversation about my scrotum, as it symbolizes masculinity. I know I speak a lot of masculine/feminine polarity, and I will continue to because of its connection to my life, interests, teaching, and mission. And a significant goal in my life is to be in a partnered, committed relationship, so I feel my life path and this goal are aligned. I’m currently involved in two Men’s programs, a Couple’s intimacy course a tantric consort course for couples. And my mission consists of this desire for healing, depth, and healthier, more alive relationships. A word that summarizes this is wholeness. I seek wholeness in myself and want to be in a position that invites others into their wholeness.

And from here – I feel some vulnerable words about to come forth. I notice an imposter syndrome as I navigate this sphere of my life. I’m helping men with their purpose, their sexuality, and their hearts. I’m teaching couples how to communicate better, AND here I am, 42, unsure of where I will be living in a month from now, single, and with an insecure income stream. Despite now wanting to admit it fully,( even to myself), COVID and CHEMO were like putting on a weighted blanket that I am trying to crawl out from underneath. On the positive side, they significantly strengthened my resilience, brought me an incredible amount of humbleness, slowed me down, helped me narrow my focus and goals. However, it also left me slightly dizzy, with 15 extra pounds, decreased vitality, and more financial burden and stress than I would prefer.

This imposter syndrome manifests specifically in the lack of relationship/partnership in my life. I am teaching men and couples how to IMPROVE – intimacy, sexuality, communication….and I know myself to be a confident lover and excellent communicator, yet lacking clear direction and stability. Therefore, I often feel unattractive to potential partners.

For me, there is a crux, an edge that I am exploring related to staying authentic, congruent, and in integrity with my values. The values of simplicity, non-materiality, freedom, and service. The importance of a quiet, meditative life of practice and contemplating my scrotum.

Yet, I believe that to mate signal for a potential partner properly means I need to develop other values: physical fitness, financial stability, owning a home, etc., thereby defining myself through a career or capacity to provide to be marketable. Even if becoming more marketable means losing touch with my inner life and practice. As I type this, my heart knows the answer – it does nobody a service to be inauthentic to gain and enter a relationship only to find oneself removed from one’s values. I think the answer to my question is trust and patience. And the clarity that the very act of remaining true to my principles and values is the most attractive thing in the world to the type of woman I believe I am attracting. This feels like a good moment to pause.

Thanks for being with me.

Right Under my Nose!

I am winding down my time at Lake Atitlan, spending my final days in this magical, mythical and mysterious land. Two weeks ago, as I sat through illness and mild depression, I could not imagine this time coming soon enough. But now I feel like putting the brakes on, extending my time, and slowing down to take in the people and the places that I very much appreciate. I may be back; I may not. But, I most likely will be. I have always noticed how the appreciation of a place increases once I am away from it.

Today marks the 12th day my right ear has been blocked since the illness I contracted at the beginning of the year. It has added an extra layer of challenge to the last two weeks. Finally, after the body gained strength and energy, a friendly omicron leftover invited me to lean into a (hopefully) temporary disability to navigate, leading an event that deeply depended on my listening and speaking skills. With no success, I’ve attempted ALL of the methods to unblock this ear known to mankind and the internet. I have seen a doctor who diagnosed an infection and gave me antibiotic drops, which have also been futile. Continuing to cross my fingers that the pressure will relax before flying in two days.

Amid this rather significant impairment, I facilitated and led an Authentic Relating Training for 20 people. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work: marketing, following leads, promotional events, working with a challenging venue, etc. However, once the event began, I found myself slowing down, relaxing, and doing what I love – being with others and helping and teaching them tools to be more with themselves and others. With the blocked ear, I felt like I was speaking underwater. I had no idea how loud I was talking and found it took extended effort to stay focused. Fortunately, I was with my trusted co-lead, Ash, who helped ensure nothing was missed.

I guess everything above is a preamble for what I want to speak about today: A recent dissonance that has appeared in my awareness around my purpose and meaningful place in the world. I have had the good fortune of hosting a weekly brothers circle here in San Marcos the past two months, full of rich harvests and insights and a space of healing for many of the men, myself included. Yesterday we ranged in age from 20 to 65 and spent a good portion of the circle sincerely inquiring into each man to level him up in a specific area of life that he was struggling with. For one man, it was faith in light of a terminal illness. For another, his leadership in his intimate relationship, my inner conflict between what I have found deeply satisfying recently and my pre-existing story of what success is supposed to look like. Let me unpack this:

Recently, or more or less for the past three years, I’ve been contemplating, exploring, considering my purpose in the world, my search for meaning, which has shown up as a repeated theme on my blog. I now notice that I may have been missing something directly under my nose. The pain of not feeling on-purpose is due to this fixed idea of what being ‘on-purpose’ is supposed to look like: a pre-defined notion of what being satisfied in my purpose is. My ego wrestles with and opposes the idea that being on purpose might look very different than what it has gripped for so long: success in the masculine sense: having a significant impact, owning a brand or center, being in the limelight, earning fist loads of money changing the world.

When I measure my last couple of years against this idea of success, no wonder I feel like I have fallen short! Being diagnosed with cancer in the middle of a pandemic and spending most of my energy healing myself and nourishing my relationships and emotional intelligence – what a tremendous waste of time (from that vantage point)! But wait a minute – maybe there is something here that I have been missing? What have I discovered, developed, and nourished these past two years? One-one relating, small group interactions, esoteric body-mind-spirit practices, nature, deep healing, sensemaking, poetry, and mysticism.

But what if, just what if…the purpose of this leadership was in these inner realms, in the more feminine aspects of leadership: empathetic, intuitive, passionate, collaborative, instinctual, versus the more traditional masculine individualistic, analytical, decisive, independent, and logical?

Leadership in community, service and teaching are clearly part of my calling and path. However, I realize that while my WHY is clear, I may have been envisioning the wrong HOW and WHAT. As I transition away from Guatemala, returning to Colorado briefly before heading abroad again, I will ponder this possibility and continue to allow my lived experience to challenge my old stories and beliefs. Let’s see what unfolds next. Thanks for being with me.

Dalai Lama on Humanity

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered:

 

Man.
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.

dalailamaThe Dalai Lama, referring to humanity in this quote, definitely touches something close at heart for me. Since returning from abroad last month, I find myself pulled towards this idea of earning money. Of course there is nothing negative or wrong about earning money, yet for many of us this can become end in itself, rather than a means. When it becomes an end to itself, you can easily sacrifice your health (not just physical, but mental, emotional and so on), as well as creating the conditions to not really live in the present, living from the past and fearing the future.

First, let me address the obvious response to what I’m saying: “That would be great if I didn’t need to earn money, yet I have a mortgage, kids, and have to eat somehow”

Clearly one needs to support oneself and honor their commitments to their loved ones. Yet you can still ask yourself, is the work you do fulfilling beyond its ability to earn money to meet these commitments? I’m extremely fortunate in this time to have the ability to support myself and my partner on savings. This won’t last indefinitely, but at the present time this allows me to really ask myself, what kind of work do I want to do?

My first few days back in the United States were very difficult. I felt a collective energy towards being productive, towards contributing towards the greater good, whatever that is. I felt a heavy anxiety, thinking it would not be a good idea to live off of investments and savings, that I should keep the piggy bank full. This feeling lasted for several days – until at one point during a meditation, I observed it drop away. It wasn’t really my anxiety – it was the collective anxiety, the anxiety that first tells us that we need to earn money no matter what, and second, that we should subtly encourage others – our friends, children and colleagues that they should too, because it justifies our behavior.

This is completely new territory for me right now. My ego craves a career, to be able to label myself as xyz, to have a defined place in society. Yet when I deeply look into my values, the vows I’ve made to myself, they don’t align with this movement of the ego. My values involve seeing deeply into the nature of self, strengthening my relationships, nurturing my health and the health of the planet. On a daily basis I find myself confronted with my own patience and resolve in sticking to my values, rather than conforming to that which society and others suggest. Even my closest friends, those who have a sense of what I’m about and what I’m doing subtly challenge me – because whenever you live in atypical fashion, it in a way is forcing those close to you to question what they are doing to. For those unused to actually looking at themselves, this might not be easy.

I am no exception to the human behavior of seeking justification for my actions. Isn’t writing this post or some of the others I’ve written recently doing exactly this? This moves into a another territory of discussion around standing upright in the world, resting in your own certainty and trust. This is a real focus for me – trusting in nothing outside, carefully listening to my heart and my deepest longing, cultivating a profound faith and patience that everything is at it should be.

2011: Your Best Year Yet

I mentioned previously that I had envisioned a framework for 2011 based on a book recommendation from one of my most goal-oriented and motivated friends, Marc.  The book is Your Best Year Yet, published in 1994, yet ever prevalent in today’s world. The premise is simple: Keep your goals simple, focused and close at hand.

clip_image001During my time in Corporate America, specifically at IBM, a routine part of my career was goal-setting, execution, and review. Throughout the year I would examine my responsibilities, direct them towards my goals and hopefully be rewarded financially for meeting them at the end of the year.  I believe I took for granted how helpful such a process is in moving one forward towards their aspirations. Why not apply such a process to all aspects of one’s life?

Unfortunately I cannot promise anyone big bonuses through this process, but I think you will find it satisfying and if anything, allow you to cut out some of your less than fruitful activities.

The process is simple; you can choose to read through the book or simply jump to the workshop and refer back to the sections when needed.  Eventually you will end up with a one page summary like this:

Keith’s Best Year Yet 2011

GUIDELINES

  • No place to go, nothing to do
  • Trust my intuition: choose nourishment over diminishment, always.
  • Do the difficult things first

NEW PARADIGM

  • My Inner work is evolving into a creative means of service to humanity

MAJOR FOCUS

  • Writer

TOP TEN GOALS

  • Develop a formal writing process and implement it: 2 blog entries a week and personal journal with weekly goal review and reflection
  • Lead and complete technical peak climb of at least Grade III, 7+
  • Innovate business idea and financial plan to support it
  • Organize and take a destination trip with my family

The intention of the short summary is for you to have something concise and easily referenceable (You’ll be able to essentially memorize it after a couple weeks).

Several aspects of the process stood out to me as particularly helpful:

1. Getting to the Guidelines. You look at the previous year, your accomplishments, your disappointments and the lessons learned from these.  Your guidelines stem from the lessons learned – almost if you could go back to the start of last year and give yourself advice.

2. Developing the Paradigm shift. I thought this part was extremely innovative. You look at your last year, analyze the What do I say to myself to justify why I didn’t meet my goals? For example, I found things such as:  I’m not a creative person; I am in a place where I need to develop myself first before I can help others, etc.  You then turn these excuses (limiting paradigm) on their head, basically shifting a world-view you hold of yourself.

3. Determining the Focus:  The workshop takes you through a process of cross-referencing your roles in life (boyfriend, athlete, yogi, and writer) with your values (self-realization, loving others, creative expression, etc.).  You then put tic marks next to each role when it helps you focus on one of your values.  This is where certain goals that you may have been holding onto for some time fall away. For example, I’m always saying that I want to re-learn Spanish. Yet it doesn’t fall into this matrix at all, and therefore (this year at least) is not a tangible goal.

After this process, you ask yourself, If I were able to put a big checkmark next to one of my roles at the end of this year, signifying a sense of mastery in it, which one would it be? This becomes your focus. For me, writer.

Finally you walk through your life roles and write 3-5 goals for each. You painstakingly have to trim this list down to 10 in total. This can be difficult, but it is one of the jewels of this process: remaining focused. Now a month after finishing these goals, I sometimes feel the 10 are unobtainable. I can only imagine if I started with 20.

And that’s it. I keep a copy of this list on my iPhone for quick reference, referring to it weekly or as needed. It has already helped me on a few major decisions where I am teetering back and forth. Instead of a long debate with myself, I simply say, is it on my list? When having to choose where to direct my energy, I have a set of guidelines that I can fall back on.

I did this process as a slow-burn over the course of a couple of weeks. But if you’re motivated you complete it on a Saturday afternoon. Everyone works differently, but my recommendation is to plan on at least two sittings. The first to read through the book and understand what is being asked from you. Then let it incubate a bit. Come back and actually do the goal setting exercises.

Here’s to your best year yet!